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Columbia University professor Brian Greene, who with his book The Elegant Universe has returned physics to the best-seller lists for the first time since Steven Hawking, will give a lecture at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 5 in the auditorium of Lafayette College’s Kirby Hall of Civil Rights.

The event is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by the Physics Club and the Department of Physics. Primary funding is provided by the Delta Upsilon alumni fund, with additional support from the Resnick Fund and the John and Muriel Landis Fund.

Greene is a physicist who has been working on the unified theory of “superstrings,” or string theory, for more than a decade. He is widely recognized for a number of ground-breaking discoveries in the field (with popular accounts reported in Science, The Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere) and also for his skills in explaining cutting-edge research to members of the physics communities and the general public. His lectures at Columbia University are standing room only.

The Elegant Universe; Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory, published last year by W.W. Norton, has received critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. Says Publishers Weekly: “He possesses a remarkable gift for using the everyday to illustrate what may be going on in dimensions beyond our feeble human perception.”

Greene received his undergraduate training at Harvard University, where he graduated summa cum laude in 1984. He went on to graduate school at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and received his doctorate in 1986. From 1987-90, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, and in 1990 Greene joined the faculty of Cornell University as an assistant professor. By 1995, he had been promoted to tenured associate and then full professor, and is currently a full professor in both the physics and mathematics departments of Columbia University.

Greene’s research interests focus on the quantum mechanical properties of space and time. Physicists and mathematicians throughout the world are feverishly working on string theory, perhaps one of the most ambitious theories ever proposed. String theory, many believe, is the key to the unified field theory that eluded Einstein for more than 30 years, overcoming the nearly century-old rift between the laws of the large — general relativity — and the laws of the small — quantum mechanics. String theory unites these two pillars of modern physics into a single, harmonious whole by declaring that all of the wondrous happenings in the universe arise from the vibrations of one single entity: microscopically tiny loops of energy that lie deep within the heart of matter. And with the potential to unify all of the forces of nature — to provide the master equation governing the grand sweep of physics from quarks to the cosmos — some have called superstring theory a “Theory of Everything.”

In 1990, Greene and a Harvard colleague discovered “mirror symmetry,” a property of string theory that has launched a vibrant field of research in both mathematics and physics. In 1993 and subsequently in 1995, Greene and his colleagues discovered “topology change.” Whereas Einstein’s general relativity shows that the fabric of space can stretch in time (resulting in our expanding universe), it does not allow the fabric to rip. To the contrary, Greene and his colleagues showed that in string theory — -by including quantum mechanics — the fabric of space can tear, establishing that the universe can evolve in far more dramatic ways than Einstein had envisioned.

Greene has lectured at both a technical and popular level in more than 20 countries. In 1997, he lectured at the Symposium on Strings and Black Holes, along with Stephen Hawking and Edward Witten. He also spoke at the Harvard Lecture Series on Science for the General Public and the Heinz Pagel Memorial Lecture Series for the Public. He directed the Theoretical Advanced Study Institute in 1996 and is on the editorial boards of Physical Review and Advance in Theoretical and Mathematical Physics.

Green has appeared with the Emerson String Quartet to combine string physics with string music. His television appearances have ranged from Late Night with Conan O’Brien to The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. He also has served as a technical consultant for NBC’s 3rd Rock from the Sun. In 1995, while teaching at Cornell, Greene performed in a community theater production of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal. He is a former judo competitor.

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